St. Mary’s special needs pageant celebrates children’s accomplishments

St. Mary’s special needs pageant celebrates children’s accomplishments
Photo by Mark Hallum
By Mark Hallum

St. Mary’s Hospital for Children held a special needs “rockstar pageant” at its Bayside facility Saturday which and was a hit among contestants and organizers who hoped to showcase the spirit and tenacity of its patients.

The event, organized by Little Neck realtor Jackie Wong and hosted by “Ms. World Elite” Lidia Szczepanowski, had many contestants who have suffered from a range of disabilities from a young age move across the red carpet with swagger and enthusiasm.

“We’re celebrating the abilities of these amazing kids,” Wong said. “They’re overcomers, they’re winners and I think there is a misconception when it comes to kids with special needs. People feel bad about even coming to take a tour of the hospital. They should come and they should see the smiles on these kids and see how far they’ve come.”

Patients had the opportunity to not only dress up and feel beautiful, but to rub elbows with pageant queens such as “Miss Northeast Elite” Danielle Cinone; “Miss Earth Elite United States” Adele Scala; “Miss Spirit USA” Cat Celia; “Miss New York South Teen” Olivia Price; and “Miss Hudson Valley” Dana Lauren.

Nadine Pickett’s daughter, Kayla, has been in the St. Mary’s system for the better part of her life.

“This a very lovely event because it uplifts my child, especially,” Picket said, explaining that her daughter takes an interest in runway fashion. “She’s been here for years, since she was a baby. She’s 16 now and [St. Mary’s] has brought her so far, a long way, in terms of occupational therapy, speech. She has grown tremendously since she’s been here.”

Kayla Pickett was born premature, weighing 1 pound, 3 ounces. She has lived with developmental issues as a result.

But Nadine Pickett said the staff at St. Mary’s was able to get her daughter walking and talking better than ever, which showed when Kayla took to the red carpet confidently in a black dress.

“She’s been amazing ever since. I wouldn’t give up St. Mary’s for the world,” Pickett said. “It’s been a journey.”

Szczepanowski said some of the criteria children were to be judged on were their energy, ability to connect with the audience and poise.

“This is not about defining any child by their limitations, it’s about celebrating their energy; who and what they are; their spirit and their accomplishments, which is such a beautiful and extraordinary thing,” Szczepanowski said.

Although all the children who participated received an award of some sort, Rockstar King was awarded to a boy named Dante and Rockstar Queens went to a girl named Ayesha.

Both children’s last names were withheld for privacy reasons.

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhallum@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.